A novel class of somatic small RNAs similar to germ cell pachytene PIWI-interacting small RNAs

Nicole Ortogero, Andrew S. Schuster, Daniel K. Oliver, Connor R. Riordan, Annie S. Hong, Grant W. Hennig, Dickson Luong, Jianqiang Bao, Bhupal P. Bhetwal, Seungil Ro, John R. McCarrey, Wei Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that bind PIWI family proteins exclusively expressed in the germ cells of mammalian gonads. MIWI2-associated piRNAs are essential for silencing transposons during primordial germ cell development, and MIWI-bound piRNAs are required for normal spermatogenesis during adulthood in mice. Although piRNAs have long been regarded as germ cell-specific, increasing lines of evidence suggest that somatic cells also express piRNA-like RNAs (pilRNAs). Here, we report the detection of abundant pilRNAs in somatic cells, which are similar to MIWI-associated piRNAs mainly expressed in pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids in the testis. Based on small RNA deep sequencing and quantitative PCR analyses, pilRNA expression is dynamic and displays tissue specificity. Although pilRNAs are similar to pachytene piRNAs in both size and genomic origins, they have a distinct ping-pong signature. Furthermore, pilRNA biogenesis appears to utilize a yet to be identified pathway, which is different from all currently known small RNA biogenetic pathways. In addition, pilRNAs appear to preferentially target the 3′-UTRs of mRNAs in a partially complementary manner. Our data suggest that pilRNAs, as an integral component of the small RNA transcriptome in somatic cell lineages, represent a distinct population of small RNAs that may have functions similar to germ cell piRNAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32824-32834
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number47
StatePublished - Nov 21 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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